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 Heavier trucks-0000

Australian road transport costs are lower as their trucks are more productive due to heavier loads.  Kiwi exporters may be more competitive if New Zealand trucks are allowed heavier loads.

BY:  Tony Friedlander

The Government’s proposal to allow heavier and in some instances longer trucks on New Zealand’s roads is good news for anyone involved in exporting. Road transport costs in New Zealand are on average 30% higher than they are across the Tasman in states like Tasmania and Victoria. That’s a big cost handicap for any business competing with Australian producers here, let alone in Australia or around the world.

One of the main reasons why Australian road transport costs are lower is that Australian trucks are more productive because they can carry more. Allowing New Zealand trucks to haul heavier payloads should help New Zealand exporters be more competitive.

The benefits of heavier trucks are indisputable.  After many years of pressure from the Road Transport Forum, the previous Government set up a year-long trial of heavier trucks and trailer units in 2008.  Running at a 50-tonne maximum weight rather than the current 44-tonne limit lifted per truck productivity by 10% to 20%, cut trip numbers by 16% and reduced fuel use by 20% on average among the trialists.

Convincing

The results were convincing. The government is moving to effectively create two new classes of vehicles on top of the existing 44-tonne gvw (gross vehicle weight), 20-metre maximums.

The first would allow vehicles with the same dimensions as those currently on the road to run at a combined weight of up to 53 tonnes. In some, very limited instances these vehicles could be up to 22 metres long.

The second would allow for vehicles of up to 25 metres with a total combined weight of up to 62.5 tonnes to be allowed on a few selected routes only.

Neil Weber, operations manager at Hawke’s Bay-based Pan Pac Forest Products, is a believer in the benefits of the government’s proposals.

Together with local trucking company Emmerson Transport, Pan Pac put a 25-metre B-train on the 18 to 20 kilometre route from its Whirinaki plant to the Port of Napier, as part of the Ministry of Transport’s trial of heavier vehicles in 2008. Between October and December the experimental rig carted 85 loads of pulp and sawn timber. The results were stunning.

More Load

Just adding five metres to the overall vehicle length effectively enabled the unit to carry twice as much sawn timber.

Running at a maximum load of around 61 tonnes meant 48% fewer trips were required to cart the same tonnage. As 48% fewer kilometers were covered, fuel use dropped by 34% with a consequent significant saving in emissions.

Effectively half the number of truck trips would be needed to shift Pan Pac’s sawn timber exports annually.

Overall Pan Pac calculates it could reduce its total loads of all products to the port by 39% and its fuel use by 22%.

Under the government’s proposals, any unit operating over the 44-tonne limit would need a permit from the New Zealand Transport Agency.

If it is to run on local roads it must also have a permit from the local road controlling authority which has to consider the durability of the roads and bridges as well as safety and other road users. The permit can specify maximum weight, period or time of travel, number of allowable trips, speed, load type and amount and the roads or types of road that can be used.

Impact of Weight on Roads

Heavier trucks would cause some more damage to the roads, but a lot less than most people imagine.

According to a 2000 Transit report, there would be about a 2% rise in road wear.  However, with the steep increase in road user charges for trucks operating at these weights, any increased maintenance costs would be more than offset by the higher charges trucks would pay.

Road safety would be improved with fewer truck trips being needed to deliver a given load.Heavier trucks 1-0000

Modern trucks are more than capable of handling the proposed increased weights just as safely as the trucks already on the road and, as nearly three-quarters of all fatal accidents involving a truck and another vehicle are caused by the other vehicle, truck related deaths should be reduced.

In fact with most trucks operating at heavier loads having the same dimensions as those currently on New Zealand’s highways, most other road users wouldn’t see any difference. Even the Pan Pac truck attracted no public comment on its runs between Whirinaki and the port.

(Tony Friedlander is chief executive of the Road Transport Forum)

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